One-on-one with the celebrated writer, blogger and fashionista.
Jessica Quirk, author of the well-known personal style blog What I Wore, is the oh-so-stylish girl next door. Each day, she shares her outfits with readers and offers tips for every occasion and season.
She’s put together her best recipes for style in her new book What I Wore: Four Seasons, One Closet, Endless Recipes for Personal Style (Ballantine Books, $18). In it, Quirk shares her best outfits, recommends ways to organize a closet and answers common style conundrums. I had the opportunity to speak with her this week about her new book.
Lindsay Bradley: Jessica, I’ve been reading your book since I got my copy and I’m coming away with so many ideas! What inspired you to write a cookbook for the closet?
Jessica Quirk: Thank you so much! I think that when it comes to how women embrace fashion there are the women who are on top of every trend and women who love to look great but are not on top of every new thing. That’s not a bad thing, but fashion is a side portion of their life instead of a main focus.
Some women are intimidated by adding color or simply don’t know where to start. Cooking is something we’ve all done at some point in our lives. Everyone has cooked something, be it boiling an egg or making a sandwich. Once you gain confidence you can do more and more using ingredients in different ways. It’s the same with style and my book suggests a relatable, non-intimidating approach to getting dressed.
LB: For our readers who haven’t seen your blog, tell us a little about yourself.
JQ: I have been taking a photo of my outfit every day for the past four years and I post those on my blog along with DIY style projects and personal style tips and advice. I’ve been writing the blog professionally for the past two years and it’s a great job!
LB: How did taking daily outfit photos change your personal style?
JQ: Well, it was definitely more of a challenge than the way I was dressing before. Coming out of school, a couple years out of college, I still hadn’t found my way. I was always interested in fashion, but I was more focused on sewing lab than dressing myself. I became financially independent for the first time in my life, so I didn’t have as much to work with. I had to make use of the great thrift stores in New York, trying to remake things I could find or already had. By documenting it I started trying harder; instead of wearing the same dress twice a week I got more creative. I started dressing with more color and instead of wearing what was comfy I focused on what looks good on my body.
LB: What do you think the difference is between fashion and personal style?
JQ: Fashion is market-driven, trend-driven; it’s constantly changing and reinventing itself. Personal style suits you and your lifestyle, whether it’s the hottest trend or more classic. I see lot of things come through the fashion cycle that I’ve been wearing for years. Sailor-style T-shirts, for example. Breton stripes keep coming back and I cringe because they’ve been in my closet for years. Fashion is cyclical. It’s always changing, but personal style is wearing what makes you happy, which may or may not be in fashion.
LB: You are such a fantastic artist! How did you decide to focus on illustration instead of photos to share your style recipes?
JQ: Before writing the book, I started playing around with illustrating and was having a fun time with it. That was the start of organizing the book. When I look at style photography, I find myself gravitating toward women who have characteristics that are enviable; stature, hair or makeup, something not related to the outfit. Washing that away allowed me to keep the focus on outfit combinations that work. I used a consistent mannequin type figure, but I mixed up hair and skin tones so that the reader can focus on the outfit and easily relate each look to their own style.
LB: The book is broken down into seasons, weeks, occasions and even challenging style situations. How would you like readers to use the book?
JQ: I hope it’s a book that will get people’s creative wheels turning. I don’t expect people to copy everything verbatim, and I don’t mention brands except for a couple of exceptions. I don’t want people to believe they have to have a certain brand of skirt or dress to be stylish. Readers can take their vision and run with it as it applies to their own closet. A reader recently told me she identified her core colors and secondary colors and explained what she was getting rid of; that was the best compliment I could hope for. I hope each reader is able to clean out their closet, become a smarter shopper and focus on dressing their best.
LB: What is the best piece of advice from your book?
JQ: From a technical standpoint, I hope women take away that an organized closet of wrinkle-free clothes makes it easier to get dressed in the morning. Whether you’ve slept in too late or have a long agenda for the day, prepping your closet just makes it easier to look your best. Overall, I hope women come away with the message that when you look good, you feel good. How you feel about yourself is more important than how people think you look.
LB: What styling advice do you have for the rainy Seattle weather?
JQ: Without taking a dive into your style scene, I have lived through months of rain every day. I always have a collection of umbrellas. It’s a small thing and they’re not crazy expensive. I used to pick up a cheap one for $3 and carry when it rained and then lose it. Now I buy a neon green, hot pink argyle or polka dot. A little bit of color helps brighten my mood, too. Color is my go-to answer for everything, but I’m a spunky kind of girl. Put some money into your rain boots, umbrella, or a cool water-proof jacket. Go for a great color or pattern and work your outfits around them.